You are on page 1of 10

Efficient and Flexible Crude Oil processing technology for Oil Separation facilities


Wrtsil Oil & Gas Systems AS

The contents of this document are Wrtsils intellectual property and shall be treated as confidential Information. This document
shall not be shown nor given to any 3 party without written acceptance by Wrtsil Oil & Gas Systems AS.

ABSTRACT achieved by utilizing electro coalescence at an earlier stage by

use of a Vessel Internal Electrostatic Coalescer (VIEC).
Many challenges can be encountered when separating oil and
water in onshore and offshore production trains. Two of the The VIEC technology was the OTC Spotlight on new
Technology award winner in 2004 and has since then been
most common challenges are the presence of stable
implemented on several major projects.
emulsions and/or high oil viscosities - both of which can limit
separation efficiency significantly if not appropriately Wrtsil will discuss these benefits and how they can be
addressed. Production of heavy oil is becoming more the realized in existing and new process trains. Special emphasis
norm in todays mature oil industry, where most of the light will be put on how laboratory studies can be used to make
and easy oil fields have been produced or are nearing their representative predictions of the separation benefits for
end-life. Similarly, stable emulsions are increasingly specific crude oils, and how to optimize the process based on
encountered as new wells and fields are tied-in to existing these studies. Important aspects that are considered in the
ones, which increases tendency to form stable emulsions due studies are the interplay of demulsifiers and electro
to incompatible chemical compositions. The conventional coalescence, scale differences between laboratory and field
solution to these challenges includes a combination of higher installation, static vs. dynamic separation tests, etc.
process temperatures, higher chemical dosages, larger vessels
and/or more separation stages. However, a significant A Case study for an offshore heavy oil field in Canada will be
drawback of the conventional solutions is that they often presented to enlighten these aspects.
demand increased energy consumption, higher material costs,
Wrtsil is a technology provider that specializes in delivering
larger operating costs, and/or larger space for the production
solutions to enhance oil/water separation and optimize oil
facility. Furthermore, it is not always feasible to address the
treatment facilities. The core technology of Wrtsil is based
issues by conventional means due to restricted energy
on patented advanced electrostatic internals. In addition,
availability or space restrictions.
laboratory services and detailed analyses are provided for
The presentation will focus on how electrostatic treatment of studying and optimizing the process, both with and without
water-in-oil emulsions can be used to debottleneck and the use of the technology.
optimize the separation processes. Conventional practice has
seen the use of electrocoalescence limited to the last stages
of the separation train, where there is a limited presence of
gas and water. However, significant process benefits can be

1 Recent Advances in Offshore Technology. St.Johns, Newfoundland. Wednesday 1 of October 2014
INTRODUCTION The principle of electrocoalescence, which lies at the heart of
the VIEC technology, will be described. We present the VIEC
Many challenges can be encountered when separating oil and technology and how it can be used to optimize and
water in a oil production train. Two of the most common debottleneck oil production trains together with Wrtsils
challenges are presence of stable emulsions and/or high oil framework for predicting separation performance. Finally, a
viscosities, both of which can limit separation efficiency case study where VIEC technology is applied are presented.
significantly if not appropriately addressed. Production of
heavy oil is becoming more the norm in todays mature oil ELECTROCOALESCENCE
industry, where most of the light and easy oil fields have
been produced or are nearing their end-life. Similarly, stable Electrocoalescence is the process where droplets of a first
emulsions are increasingly encountered as new wells and liquid dispersed in a second continuous liquid are caused to
fields are tied-in to existing ones, which increases tendency coalesce by application of an external electrostatic field. This
to form stable emulsions due to incompatible chemical is a principle that has been applied very successfully in the oil
compositions. Break-up of water droplets due to shear forces industry for many years to separate produced water from
in pipes, manifolds, valves and pumps also add to stability of crude oil. The electrostatic forces that act on the droplets can
emulsions. be categorized into three different types, depending on the
characteristics of the external electrostatic field:
It is seen quite often in the industry that oil separation trains
fail to perform as designed, due to these challenges. Typically 1. Electrophoretic forces. These are forces that cause
the separation trains produce oil to specification in the early motion due to a net charge of the droplets. Since
life of the field. But as the water cut increases, emulsions droplets of produced water are normally electrically
with high water content start to affect the performance neutral, the droplets would have to be charged by an
gradually, until some sort of debottlenecking solution has to external source for this force to take effect. The force
be implemented to sustain the production. Typical is a directional driving force that causes the charged
conventional measures to address these issues are for droplets to move either parallel or anti-parallel to the
example to apply more potent and larger dosages of imposed electrical field, depending on the sign of the
demulsifier and/or to apply a lot of heat to help break the charge. The force does not cause direct attraction
emulsions. Unfortunately, these conventional measures between droplets.
usually have a high impact on the operating costs. Often they
2. Dielectrophoretic forces. These are forces that act on
also require significant capital cost investments.
electrically neutral droplets of a polarizable liquid due
In this paper we present a more effective and cost-efficient to an external non-uniform electrical field. Spatial
solution to the separation challenges discussed above. The variation in the electrical field over the droplets results
solution is based on the VIEC (Vessel Internal Electrostatic in a non-uniform polarization of the droplet s, thus
Coalescer) technology developed by Wrtsil Oil & Gas setting up a net force in the direction of the field
Systems [1-6]. The VIEC technology applies high voltage gradient. As for the electrophoretic forces, the result is
electrostatic fields in the same way as conventional a directional driving force that moves all droplets in a
electrostatic coalescers to separate out the water by making given direction, depending on the field gradient. The
use of the principle of electrocoalescence. However, several force does not cause direct attraction between
inventive steps make it especially well-suited for application droplets.
in heavy oil separation trains to resolve emulsion problems
3. Electrical dipole-dipole forces. These are forces that
and to provide optimal conditions for separation.
act on electrically neutral droplets of a polarizable
The paper also discusses how separation performance can be liquid due to an external uniform electrical field. The
predicted in a consistent and representative way by external field polarizes the droplets so that one side of
combining detailed laboratory analyses with separation tests the droplets has a positive surface charge while the
and in-house developed scaling laws. opposite side has a negative surface charge. Note that

2 Recent Advances in Offshore Technology. St.Johns, Newfoundland. Wednesday 1 of October 2014
the net charge of the whole droplet remains zero. This neighboring droplets, and s is the distance between the
gives rise to attractive dipole-dipole forces between droplets. The axis between the droplets forms an angle of
droplets, where the positively and negatively charged relative to the electrostatic field. Fr and F are the radial and
sides of a droplet attract the oppositely charged sides tangential components of the induced electrostatic forces.
of neighboring droplets. As opposed to the first two
types of forces, this force acts directly between From these expressions we see that a pre-requisite for
droplets, causing adjacent particles to attract to each erecting an effective electrostatic force between the droplets
other thereby greatly facilitating droplet growth. is that the electric permittivity of the dispersed phase is
significantly higher than for the continuous phase. This
Since the electrical dipole-dipole forces give rise to direct requirement is fulfilled for a dispersion of water-in-oil, since
droplet-droplet interactions, they are the primary driving crude oils have a relative permittivity in the range of 2-3,
forces behind electrostatic coalescence. while water has a relative permittivity in the range of 55-80
depending on temperature.
r +
2 +

The attractive forces will be opposed by drag forces Fd acting
on the droplets due to the viscosity of the continuous phase.
s The drag force is described by Stokes drag law:

+ Fd = 6rv (4)
r11 +
+ where is the viscosity of the continuous phase and v is the
velocity of the droplets.
Figure 1: Force components of induced dipole-dipole
forces between two neighboring droplets of radii r1 and r2 Assuming balance between the forces we can calculate the
separated by a distance s forming and angle relative to time it takes to bring two droplets with identical radii
the external electrostatic field E. together under the influence of an electric field. We define
this as the mean electrostatic collision time Tc
Assuming that the distance s between neighboring droplets is
larger than the droplet radii r, the induced attractive dipole- 5

dipole force between the droplets can be calculated using a Tc =
8 3 1
6 (5)
15 c 2 E 2
point dipole approximation. Figure 1 shows an illustration of 0
the induced dipoles in the droplets and force components.
The forces can be written as [7, 8] where 0 is the initial fraction of emulsified water. To arrive
at this expression we have assumed that the droplets are
(3 cos 1)
3 3
r r aligned with the external electrical field.
Fr = 12 2 0 c E0 (1)
2 1 2 2
Inserting typical values for the constants, we can get an idea
3 3
F = 12 0 c E
2 r r
sin (2 )
2 1 2
(2) of the typical electrostatic collision time scale. We assume
0 4
s water cut of 40%, viscosity of 20 cP, relative oil permittivity of
2.3, relative water permittivity of 60 and electrical field
where the dielectric force factor is defined as
strength of 2.0 kV/cm. Eq. (5) gives a collision time of
d c approximately 0.9 milliseconds. This corresponds to
= (3) approximately 1000 droplet-droplet collisions per second.
d + 2 c
The greatly enhanced collision frequency due to the electrical
and d and c are the relative electrical permittivities of the
field increases the likelihood of droplet-droplet coalescence
dispersed and continuous phases, 0 is the electrical
considerably compared to normal gravity separation.
permittivity of vacuum, E0 is the average value of the
external electrostatic field, r1 and r2 are the radii of two

3 Recent Advances in Offshore Technology. St.Johns, Newfoundland. Wednesday 1 of October 2014
An additional advantage of applying electrostatic dipole- coalescers, the VIEC technology uses fully insulated
dipole forces is that they also facilitate binary coalescence electrodes with a low voltage (220V) power distribution both
once the droplets are brought together. The force inside and outside the separator. A patented solution which
expressions Eq. (1) and (2) show that the magnitude of the makes use of fully insulated electrodes and internal
force increases very strongly when the droplets are close to transformers that are integrated into the VIEC electrodes
each other. This causes stretching of the droplets, which means that the high voltage electrostatic field is contained
destabilizes the surface films surrounding them, making locally to the volume treated by the VIEC electrodes and that
coalescence much more likely than in a conventional process. no bridging can occur between the electrodes. As a result of
this, the VIEC technology tolerates any water cut and
According to Stokes sedimentation law, presence of gas. This means that by using the VIEC
technology, the benefits of electrostatic coalescence can be
gd 2 ,
vs = (6) implemented in any three-phase separator.

the dispersed water droplets sediment with a terminal

velocity that is proportional to the square of the droplet
diameter d. Thus, the greatly enhanced droplet growth
provided by electrostatic treatment will lead to significantly
faster sedimentation and ultimately to faster separation.

The advantages of electrostatic treatment are especially

pronounced for heavy crudes, since they tend to have
relatively high viscosity at the process temperatures. Since
Figure 2: A single VIEC element consisting of an active
the sedimentation velocity is proportional to the square of electrode and an internal transformer inside a single
the droplet size and only inversely proportional to the continuous mold.
viscosity, the positive effect of enhanced droplet growth due
to electrostatic treatment will in most cases far outweigh the The VIEC system is made up of elements consisting of single
adverse effect of increased viscosity. vertical electrodes cast in a specialized insulating material
(see Figure 2). The elements are installed inside a production
VIEC TECHNOLOGY separator in a modular manner in one or several walls of
modules mounted in cassettes. The VIEC elements are
Electrocoalescence has been used in the industry for many
energized by a low voltage feed penetrating through the
years to separate oil and water [9, 10]. However, the
separator shell. The low voltage feed is transformed to high
conventional application of electrocoalescence has been
voltage in transformers molded inside each element.
mostly limited to the very last stages of the process train,
Normally, the elements are installed between normal
where they act as either a dehydrator and/or desalter. The
interface level (NIL) and normal liquid level (NLL), where oil-
reason for this is that conventional electrocoalescers have
continuous emulsion is expected to be present. The VIEC
limited tolerance for water content in the inlet stream and
system can be installed in any conventional three phase
zero tolerance for presence of gas, due to use of bare
separator, both as a new-build and as a retrofit.
electrodes and high voltage internal power distribution. Due
to these limitations, conventional electrocoalescer Figure 3 and Figure 4 show a typical VIEC wall inside a three-
technology is not suitable for use in the early stages of phase separator. Also visible in the figures is a cable conduit
separation trains, where high levels of water and gas will be system which distributes a low voltage power feed to each
present. individual element. The VIEC elements are supplied with a
low-voltage high-frequency AC field by external VIEC
Wrtsil Oil & Gas Systems has developed the Vessel Internal
frequency converter cards. Each VIEC frequency converter
Electrostatic Coalescer (VIEC) technology, which overcomes
card supplies two VIEC elements.
these limitations. Unlike conventional electrostatic

4 Recent Advances in Offshore Technology. St.Johns, Newfoundland. Wednesday 1 of October 2014
HP Gas LP Gas Oil
Heating Heating

Figure 5: Typical separation train for processing crude oil.

The outlet stream from the second stage is then fed to one
stage (dehydrator) or two stages (dehydrator and desalter)
with conventional electrostatic coalescers, depending on
Figure 3: VIEC wall inside a separator. BS&W and salinity specification. The conventional
electrostatic coalescers will apply a high voltage electrostatic
field to separate the remaining emulsified water droplets and
achieve oil quality specification. As discussed above,
conventional electrostatic coalescers do not tolerate
presence of any gas in the inlet stream and they have a limit
for how much water can be contained in the inlet stream.
Typically, the limit is around 15-20%. This places strict
demands on the gravity separators upstream to achieve
optimal operation of the separation train: They have to
Figure 4: Three-phase separator with VIEC system evacuate all gas and also remove enough water so that the
installed. conventional electrostatic coalescers downstream can work
as designed.
However, even if the gravity separators are successful in
Traditional oil separation trains consist typically of a first high removing all free water, there can still be significant amounts
pressure stage gravity separator, a second stage low pressure of water present in the outlet streams in the form of
gravity separator and a conventional electrostatic coalescer emulsified water. This is water that is dispersed in tiny
unit (see Figure 5). Normally the separation train is designed droplets in the oil continuous phase, making them much
so that most of the free gas and free water is removed in the more difficult to separate out. The heavier the crude oil, the
first and second stages. The first stage gravity separator more difficult it is to separate water emulsified in an oil-
targets to remove most of the free water. This is especially continuous phase. Note that heavy crude oils have an
important for fields where the water cut is starting to get inversion point ranging from typically 40% up to 50%. This
high, meaning that presence of free water is very likely. Any means that an oil-continuous phase can contain emulsified
carry-over of free water from the first stage is removed in the water with water cuts of up to 40-50%. Since gravity
second stage gravity separator. Free gas is removed from the separators do not normally separate out emulsified water,
crude oil phase in both stages. Normally, the two stages of this means that the oil outlet stream from the gravity
gravity separation are sufficient to remove all free water and separators can contain as much as 40-50% water in the form
free gas. The first two stages are normally not designed to of an emulsion (depending on inlet water cut and crude oil
remove emulsified water; they remove only free water. properties). This exceeds significantly the limit for inlet water
cut to the conventional electrostatic coalescers. Thus, there is
a significant risk that a conventional gravity separation
scheme fails to produce to the required specifications, due to
overloading of the conventional electrostatic coalescers

5 Recent Advances in Offshore Technology. St.Johns, Newfoundland. Wednesday 1 of October 2014
By applying VIEC technology the risks can be mitigated. The production rate can be increased without
In addition, several operational benefits are provided. Typical increasing the size of the production train due to the
use of VIEC technology in a oil separation train sees it increased separation efficiency offered by the VIEC
installed in the first and/or second stage three-phase technology.
separators. Since the VIEC system tolerates any water cut and Level control can be improved by reducing or
presence of gas, this allows to bring the principle of removing emulsion bands (see Figure 6)
electrocoalescence upstream in the separation train to treat
the emulsion issues efficiently where they arise. By this, the
water content of the outlet streams from these separators
can be reduced to values that can be processed efficiently in
the conventional electrostatic coalescer downstream,
ensuring that the separation train produces to specification.

In addition to resolving emulsion problems and providing

optimal conditions for processing crude oils, the VIEC
technology can also offer additional operational and
economic benefits:

The significantly increased droplet growth rates

provided by the VIEC technology means that the
emulsions can often be treated efficiently at higher
viscosities than conventionally. This allows for
reduction in process temperature, with corresponding
Figure 6: Screenshots showing level profile readings
savings in heating energy. Note that since water has a without VIEC (upper panel) and with VIEC (lower panel).
heat capacity that is twice as high as crude oil, the A significant improvement in interface development is
energy savings can be especially high by applying VIEC visible with VIEC compared to without VIEC.
in the first stages where the water content is high.
Demulsifier dosages are often reduced significantly PREDICTING SEPARATION PERFORMANCE
when VIEC technology is applied. However, the need
When optimizing or debottlenecking a separation process it is
for a demulsifier is usually not removed completely.
important for the operator to have confidence that the
Although the electrostatic forces give rise to frequent
proposed measures will yield the required benefits. To this
droplet-droplet collisions and they help destabilize the
end, Wrtsil has developed a framework for consistent and
interfaces of the droplets, a small dosage of a suitable
representative predictions of separation performance with
demulsifier is often required to clean the interfaces
VIEC technology. The framework involves comprehensive
sufficiently of surfactants to allow direct contact
crude specific laboratory tests combined with in-house scale-
between the droplets.
up laws for predicting separation performance at full scale.
Separator sizes can be reduced compared to This allows Wrtsil to propose solutions that are custom-
conventionally sized separators. According to Stokes fitted to the challenges encountered in the specific field.
sedimentation law, the time required for droplets to Furthermore, it allows Wrtsil to guarantee the separation
sediment out of an emulsion is inversely proportional efficiency even with presence of stable emulsions.
to the square of the size of the droplets in the
emulsion. Since the main function of VIEC is to The laboratory scope of the framework consists of three
increase water droplet sizes, the required retention stages. The stages address different aspects of the separation
time of the oil phase will be reduced accordingly. Thus, process. By combining these, more consistent and
the separator size can be reduced without representative prediction of the separation performance of
compromising the oil quality. the crude can be obtained.

6 Recent Advances in Offshore Technology. St.Johns, Newfoundland. Wednesday 1 of October 2014
The first stage is crude oil characterization, which quantifies tests are therefore only used for qualitative considerations
physical and chemical parameters relevant to emulsion and serve as input to the next stage of the testing.
stability and separation efficiency. These include viscosity,
density and dielectric parameters as a function of The final stage consists of flow loop tests (See Figure 8 for a
temperature. Emulsions are analyzed in microscope and picture of the flow loop test setup).The most relevant
propensity of the crude towards forming stable emulsions is conditions identified based on the characterization and batch
investigated qualitatively by generating synthetic emulsions separation tests are tested under more representative
with different shear rates. flowing conditions. The tests are performed both with and
without application of VIEC in order to compare and quantify
In the next stage, small scale batch separation tests are the separation benefits of the technology. Since flow loop
performed. Synthetic emulsions are generated by tests allow for dynamic development of the flow in a similar
recombining dry crude oil with produced water using a high- fashion to a field separator, the results can be used for scale-
shear stator-rotor mixer. The shear rate is adjusted to obtain up to the full separator size.
emulsions with an average droplet size corresponding to a
pre-identified target value specific to the crude and field
conditions. The emulsion droplet sizes are verified using a
Visual Particle Analyzer from Jorin [11]. Separability of the
emulsions is tested at different conditions. Important
parameters that are varied in the batch separation tests are
temperature, water cut, demulsifier type and dosage and
electrostatic treatment time. Figure 7 shows some of the
equipment used for the batch tests

Figure 8: Flow loop test set up consisting of a reservoir for

mixing oil and water and a separation cell equipped with
VIEC technology.

To scale up the test results from the flow loop tests in a

consistent way we must first identify the relevant physical
processes governing separation efficiency. Next, we express
these in scale-invariant forms by defining appropriate
dimensionless groups of the relevant physical parameters.
Then separation performance in a full size separator can be
Figure 7: Setup for performing batch tests, including a inferred from flow loop tests by designing the loop test so
fixture for subjecting emulsions to an electrostatic that the values of the dimensionless parameters match with
treatment (left) and devices for generating emulsions and
measuring droplet size distributions (right) the full size separator.

Due to the static nature of the batch tests, the results The two main physical processes which dictate separation
obtained from these cannot be extrapolated directly to a full- performance are coalescence and sedimentation. The
size separator. The reason for this is that there are several process of coalescence is generally quite complicated and can
important dynamic effects that are absent in a static test. in most cases not be described by a simple force expression.
These include presence of turbulence, shear and flow re- However, when electrostatic fields are applied the forces
entrainment of the smallest droplets. The results from these erected by the field will dominate over the other droplet-
droplet forces. Thus, assuming that an appropriate

7 Recent Advances in Offshore Technology. St.Johns, Newfoundland. Wednesday 1 of October 2014
demulsifier treatment has been used together with the
electrostatic treatment, so that mechanical barriers towards
coalescence have been minimized, the mean electrostatic
coalescence time defined in Eq. (1) will be dimensioning with
respect to coalescence time. Dividing the mean electrostatic
coalescence time with electrostatic treatment time tE, we can
define the following dimensionless parameter for
electrostatic coalescence efficiency:

t E 2 c E 2 .

3 (7)
Figure 9: Relative separation for tests at two different
For the process of sedimentation we can consider Stokes scales is shown as a function of the parameter . The
behavior is consistent with scale invariance.
sedimentation law as defined in Eq. (6). Assuming that the
droplets have to sediment a distance H to join the continuous
water phase, we can divide the expression in Eq. (6) with H to CASE STUDY
obtain an average sedimentation time. Dividing this
expression again with total retention time available in the In the following we describe a case study where laboratory
separator tR, we obtain a second dimensionless parameter tests have been conducted to optimize a oil separation train
for sedimentation efficiency: with VIEC technology. The case relates to a new field
development with restrictions on process temperature
t R gd 2 . and/or size of process equipment.
= (8)
Case : API 20 crude Energy savings and size reductions
Invariance with respect to the parameters and means that
The case relates to development of a heavy oil offshore field
the BS&W value at the oil outlet will remain the same for any
located in Canada. The field will be processed in a stand-
two dynamic separation processes regardless of scale, as long
alone platform. The VIEC technology was evaluated by the
as the values of the parameters are kept the same. As
operator in the pre-FEED stage as a means of reducing the
discussed above, the invariance assumes that the emulsions
process temperature at the intermediate stage of the
are treated with a sufficiently strong electrostatic field and
separation train as well as reducing the size of the separator.
that a suitable demulsifier treatment is used.
Both energy consumption and size requirements were
Figure 9 illustrates the scale invariance of the two considered to an issue due to lack of gas in the reservoir and
parameters. The figure shows plots of relative separation cost of space in a platform.
performance of a crude oil as a function of the electrostatic
Two studies were performed by Wrtsil to evaluate the
droplet growth parameter for tests where variation in can
benefits of VIEC. One study was performed in a location close
be neglected. Data from tests at two different scales are
to the field in collaboration with a major chemicals vendor.
superimposed in chart. One set of tests is performed in
The other study was performed in Wrtsils laboratory in
Wrtsils flow loop, while the other is performed in a larger
Norway. Oil available from drilling of a previous well was
test separator on the same crude. The behavior of the two
used for both studies.
different data sets as a function of is statistically
indistinguishable, which is consistent with invariance. The studies showed that the temperature at the intermediate
stage (medium pressure separator) could be reduced to 60 C
with VIEC technology and still achieve the target of 10%

8 Recent Advances in Offshore Technology. St.Johns, Newfoundland. Wednesday 1 of October 2014
BS&W. The temperatures initially considered during pre-FEED potential presence of stable emulsions. By applying
stage were in the range of 80-90 C. Furthermore, the length electrocoalescence in the first and or second stage separator,
of the separator was reduced from 29m to 21.5m, allowing most of the water can be separated out efficiently at
for considerable space savings. significantly lower temperatures than with gravity separation
only. Furthermore, electrocoalescence is highly efficient in
An additional important conclusion of the study was that the breaking emulsions, thus significantly reducing the risk of
separation efficiency was much less dependent on type of excessive water carry-over due to presence of stable
demulsifier used when VIEC was applied compared to emulsions. The enhanced separation efficiency provided by
without VIEC. This gave the operator additional confidence electrocoalescence can also be used to reduce the size of
with regards to robustness of the separation process as the three-phase separators or increase production rate.
characteristics of the crude can change over the production
life of the field. Early stage application of electrocoalescence requires
electrostatic technology that can tolerate and function with
Figure 10 illustrates the significant improvements in high water cuts and presence of gas. Conventional
separation efficiency at 60 C when VIEC is applied with electrostatic coalescers utilize bare or composite electrodes
respectively 8 and 15 seconds of exposure time. The and can therefore not be used for this purpose. Wrtsils
displayed results are from batch tests and the values are VIEC technology utilizes fully insulated electrodes with low-
therefore only indicative. voltage power distribution and can tolerate water cuts and
gas content up to 100%. This makes the technology ideal for
use in three-phase separators for early stage application of

To predict separation performance and quantify benefits of

VIEC technology, Wrtsil relies on crude specific laboratory
studies. The laboratory studies combine characterization with
static batch separation tests and dynamic flow loop tests to
evaluate and quantify the separation performance of the
crude under various process conditions. Scaling laws are then
applied to infer separation performance at field conditions
from the laboratory tests. The scaling laws are based on the
two dimensionless parameters and formulated by
Wrtsil. These two parameters represent scale invariant
measures of the separation effect of electrostatic droplet
Figure 10: Chart displaying separation results of batch
growth and sedimentation. The scaling laws are only applied
tests of API 20 crude with and without VIEC at 60 C.
on separation results obtained from flow loop tests. This is to
take into account important dynamic effects when predicting
CONCLUSIONS separation performance.

Use of high-voltage electrostatic fields is a very effective The case study presented in this report demonstrates the
method of separating water-in-oil emulsions. The benefits of applying VIEC technology in oil separation trains.
electrostatic fields polarize water droplets causing them to The study is based on a comprehensive laboratory study as
attract to each other and coalesce. The process happens very described above. The results show significant savings in
quickly, allowing for a rapid and effective droplet growth. heating, In addition to the energy savings, separator sizes
were also reduced significantly.
For oil separation trains there are significant benefits of
applying electrocoalescence at an early stage in the In summary, the VIEC technology represents an important
separation train. This is due to high crude oil viscosities and tool for resolving emulsion problems and optimizing oil

9 Recent Advances in Offshore Technology. St.Johns, Newfoundland. Wednesday 1 of October 2014
separation trains. And by performing appropriate laboratory Enhancing Heavy Oil Separation and Improving
studies and combining these with scale-up laws, the Produced Water Quality, paper presented at the
separation benefits can be quantified in advance and a 2005 Advances in Multiphase Separation and
Multiphase Pumping Technologies Conference,
performance guarantee can be given.
Aberdeen, United Kingdom, September 1-2.
[5] T. A. Fjeldly et al., Novel Coalescer Technology in
First Stage Separator Enables One-Stage Separation
= Invariant electrostatic droplet growth parameter and Heavy-Oil Separation, OTC 18278, paper
= Invariant sedimentation rate parameter presented at the 2006 Offshore Technology
c = Relative electrical permittivity of continuous phase Conference 1-4 May 2006.
d = Relative electrical permittivity of dispersed phase [6] Al Qahtani, A., Vessel Internal Electrostatic Coalescer
0 = Electrical permittivity of vacuum (8.854E-12 F/m) Technology (VIEC), SPE 156087
= Dielectric force factor [7] Chiesa M. et al.: Forces acting on water droplets
= Viscosity of continuous phase (oil) falling in oil under the influence of an electric field:
0 = Ratio of water emulsified in oil numerical predictions versus experimental
g = Gravitational acceleration constant observations, Eur. J. Mech. B-Fluid 24 (2005) 717
d = Diameter of dispersed water droplets 732
r = Radius of dispersed water droplets [8] Eow, J.S. et al., Electrostatic enhancement of
tE =Electrostatic exposure time coalescence of water droplets in oil: a review of the
tR = Total retention time current understanding, Chem. Eng. J. 84 (2001), p.
vs = Sedimentation velocity 173.
AC = Alternating current [9] Waterman, L.C., Electrical coalescers, Chem. Eng.
BS&W = Basic Sediment and Water Progr. 61 (1965) 51-57.
E = Electrical field strength [10] Taylor, S.E., Theory and practice of electrically-
Fr = Radial component of electrostatic force enhanced phase separation of water-in-oil
F = Tangential component of electrostatic force emulsions, Trans. IChemE A 74 (1996) 526-540
Fd = Drag force on droplets [11]
H = Settling height of emulsion
ID = Internal diameter of separator
T/T = TAN to TAN length of separator
Tc = Electrostatic collision time
VIEC = Vessel Internal Electrostatic Coalescer


[1] Chiesa, M. and Hamid, W A holistic solution for

compact oil treatment separation systems, SPE
Paper Number (136836-PP)
[2] Wolff, E. A. and Knutsen, T. L.: Advanced
electrostatic internals in the 1st stage separator
enhance oil/water separation and reduce chemical
consumption on the Troll C platform, paper OTC
16321 presented at the 2004 Offshore Technology
Conference, Houston, Texas, USA, May 3-6.
[3] Kvilesj, B. E. et al.: Subsea separation process
qualified for heavy oils (17API), paper presented at
the 2005 Deep Offshore Technology Conference and
Exhibition, Vitoria, Espirito Santo, Brazil, November
[4] Mosland A. M. et al.: VIEC (Vessel Internal
Electrostatic Coalescer) - A Proven Technology For

10 Recent Advances in Offshore Technology. St.Johns, Newfoundland. Wednesday 1 of October 2014